Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Guest Post

The Courtship Of Consumer Brand Loyalty

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

I am a fan of analogies and I tend to think in pictures so when I try to explain to my non-marketing, brand savvy friends how we attempt to take consumers on the journey to brand loyalty I feel it is best explained through an analogy.  The analogy of marriage of course!

You typically don’t wake up married one day, not that it can’t happen, but it is typically not that easy for a brand without some radically new feature so let’s focus on the other 98.6% of times a brand must embark on the drawn out version of this adventure.

This journey to brand loyalty that makes consumers so committed they don’t even consider the competition and it becomes like a marriage must typically start at square one with the basics…

1.) Your Appearance (Packaging)

Even though they say don’t judge a book by its cover, most still do.  Similarly, how you dress says a lot about you.  It provides the first impression so people invest a great deal of time and money in an attempt to look their best.  Packaging is a similar attempt by brands to dress to impress the consumer.  If it is innovative enough, packaging can be the sole reason consumers may buy a product, like KLEENEX® Tissue Holiday Ovals.  These were and continue to be a tremendous success simply because of their pretty holiday packaging.

2.) The Scene (Targeting/Channel Selection)

Singles tend to visit specific clubs or take part in activities they enjoy (biking, skiing, etc.) in the hopes of crossing paths with other like-minded singles that would appeal to them.  Brands must also position themselves in the appropriate locations (tv, print, online) to find their target consumers based on how and where their target consumers focuses their media attention.  Within these channels they can narrow the lens by zeroing in on certain demographics, contextual targets (such as baby, cooking or sporting content), or by using behavioral targeting.  These approaches allow brands to be more efficient and fish where the fish are.

3.) The Awareness (Advertising)

It may be the person on the dance floor or the quiet unassuming individual that gets your attention based on their appearance and actions.  You are constantly forming and reshaping your opinions as you filter through who and what is appealing to determine if they could be “the one” or at least worth pursuing.  Advertising must also break through the clutter and grab your attention whatever the medium as it attempts to take you from unaware, to a brand you would consider.

4.) The Pick Up Line (Communications)

Once someone has your eye, you have to figure out what you are going to say to break the ice.  As you begin talking, you look to find common interests and the time may fly by if both are truly listening to the dialogue.  Instead of pick up lines, brands rely on funny, informational or impactful tag lines and imagery found on their print ads, commercials or the copy that appears in search results.  The objective being that this is so compelling the consumer identifies with it immediately, wants to learn more and takes action.

5.) The Invitation (Offers/Promotions)

The dialogue continues and you perhaps find this is really someone worthy of your time.  Offers of dinner or perhaps a movie may be suggested for another day.  Similarly, brands look to entice consumers with contests, sweepstakes, coupon offers, or more information to further the relationship.  Based on the possible value of the consumer, the offer may also be adjusted to help ensure the most valuable ones don’t get away.

6.) The Info Exchange (Relationship Marketing)

As this connection is forming, you are likely deciding how trustworthy this person is and how much personal information you want to exchange.  You may start with just your email and phone number or perhaps you decide you are willing to also share your home address.  Consumers make these types of decisions as they interact with brands based on the level of trust established, ease of input and the comfortable they have with the channel they are being asked.  The consumer must decide if they are willing to share a certain degree of their personal information to further the relationship and often times this is in exchange for the brand’s offer that perhaps initially peaked their interest.

7.) The Commitment (Brand Loyalty)

After the first few dates where you find you truly enjoy spending time together you may agree to a deeper relationship based on the bonds and trust established.  Over time you might become so committed that you ultimately agree to marriage.  When brands continue to perform, meeting and exceeding expectations, consumers form a trusted bond that can stop them from even considering the competitors and drives them to pay a premium for your brand, with or without coupons.  At that point they have made a commitment to exclusively choose your brand and essentially are now married or brand loyal.

This sounds easy enough, but I have yet to find the map etched in stone that clearly articulates every step for either of these journeys (marriage or brand loyalty) and no two consumers or brands are exactly alike.  The other reality is that there is no ring around the consumer’s finger once they arrive at this brand loyal status.  As a result, brands must continue to meet and exceed consumer expectations because after even just one bad experience or a major improvement from the competition and you may wake up to find your brand loyal consumer now married to your competitor over night…

The good news, these positive relationships happen every day to individuals and brands so it can be done.  There also are many parallels in both journeys that may help guide you as you look to foster and develop these relationships overtime.

So even though the path to brand loyalty is not set in stone, just remember that communication is typically the key to finding the answers and solving the problem as you embark on either of these journeys!

Written and authored by Kate Johnson – Check her out at on twitter.

Why The Only Thing New About Social Marketing Is That Small Agencies Are Going To Own It

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

It is a ridiculous notion that social media is some paradigm-shifting phenomenon whose waters can only be successfully navigated by people with the word “guru” in their LinkedIn profile. Here’s a bit of honest-true reality. Social media is nothing new — take it from somebody who has been blogging since 1997.

People haven’t changed. It’s only the tools that they—-and we-—have at our disposal that have evolved.

Before we spoke to one another at the water cooler. Today we communicate together on Twitter.

Before we listened to our customers in focus groups to develop insights. Today we listen with Google Alerts, Twilerts and ListenLogic to develop insights.

Before people responded to incentives like coupons. Today people respond to incentives like recognition, self-validation, utility—-and coupons.

Before we tried to get audiences to “click here.” Today we try to get them to “comment here.”

Big agencies and the status quo
Then why is the marketing universe freaking out? Why are big agencies completely unprepared to deal?

The answer to the first question is easy. They’re freaking out precisely because they’ve relied for so long on those big agencies who are completely unprepared to deal.

The second answer became clear to me at the iMedia Agency Summit where I saw the other Adam K. a few weeks back. A question was put to the audience during a participatory session on social media: “What does media mean today?”

My table consisted of very “new media” group: the CEO of Six Apart, the lead evangelist from Eyeblaster, a couple of women from AdFusion content network and me. We talked about media being not just new streams of communication flowing out of corporations, but ones flowing back in as well. Fairly thoughtful stuff if you ask me.

When responses from the audience were taken someone from one of those big agencies grabbed the mike a few tables over.

“Media is anything you can buy.”

Therein lies the rub. There was a great deal of talk at the Agency Summit about the “monetization” of social media. Big agencies make most of their money buying media and charging a substantial commission for it. In their eyes, media has to be limited to what they can pay someone else to place in order for it to fit into their model.

Sadly for them, those eyes are attached to their head. Which is buried in the sand. It’s too hard to change their model, so they ignore it and cling to how things have always been done.

Small agencies positioned to win
Meanwhile, smaller, nimble agencies are there to pick up the pieces. Because we are nimble, adapting our model to changing times isn’t as onerous. Because we are smaller, we can provide valuable consultation and management services that contribute to the bottom line in a meaningful way.

For instance, I believe that there is an inherent flaw in the media commission model. Whenever an agency has a financial incentive to provide one service over another, they are motivated to act out of self-interest rather than the best interest of their client.

Try telling that to an agency exec earning 11% on a $200 million media buy.

Adam Kleinberg is the CEO of Traction, a creative agency with a digital core on the California Street cable car line in San Francisco. Traction has designed cross-channel brand experiences for some of the world’s greatest brands, including Apple, Virgin Mobile, Adobe, Bank of America, Walmart.com, Norton, Alibaba.com, CamelBak and Clos du Bois. They were named BtoB Magazine’s 2009 Interactive Agency of the Year.

Getting Started With Integrated Communication

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

I’ve been thinking a lot about integrated marketing recently. Integrating communication – making PR, marketing, sales, social media and even customer service work hand-in-hand – will enable companies to achieve better results and do more with less.

But I know from my own experiences that this approach to communication is easier said than done. A few quick examples (not intended to be an exhaustive list):

  • Sales-driven organizations want their sales reps to leverage LinkedIn – but the sales team doesn’t want to spend the time making connections, answering questions or seeking introductions.
  • B2B companies want media clips, but don’t understand how to extend the clip via existing or new marketing channels.
  • B2C companies claim to prioritize customer service, yet they aren’t providing such service on the channels used by their consumers.

A while ago, Geoff Livingston wrote a smart white paper entitled The Cultural Challenges to Integration, in which he explained how internal issues hamper company-wide social media adoption. (Side note: It’s very good. You should read it, if you haven’t already.) Unfortunately, the integration problem extends beyond social media. Cultural barriers also prevent the implementation of truly integrated marketing communication strategies as well.

5 Es of Integrated Marketing Success

  1. Embrace multiple communication channels. Media clips alone will not drive sales, generate new business leads or strengthen the bottom line. A B2B company certainly benefits from media outreach, but only if it’s accompanied by other marketing initiatives (community relations, relationship marketing, e-newsletter, etc.)
  2. Eliminate departmental barriers. It’s not uncommon to see some friendly competition – or all-out friction – develop between the various communication departments. However, if the PR people are supposed to work with the interactive department and the marketing team, these walls need to come down. Managers must foster a creative, “no idea is a bad idea,” team-oriented environment. If communication plans are concocted in silos, integration will suffer … or be non-existent.
  3. Educate, educate, educate. Just because we say we want cross-departmental communication doesn’t mean it will happen overnight. People spend years and years developing their areas of expertise. For example, the PR department may suggest an online initiative, but have very little knowledge of how much design and programming time is required. Allocate ample time for internal training focused on integration to help the departments learn to work together and what skill sets each team brings to the table.
  4. Examine results from ALL marketing efforts. Current technology makes it so much easier to measure what outreach efforts spark leads. Once-static digital efforts (billboards, roadside banners, direct mail, radio ads) should be interactive – thereby more measurable. (You’d be surprised how many brands aren’t property doing this … still.)  For example, instead of giving a phone number (that few people will remember anyway) on a radio ad, integrate advertising with mobile marketing. Track leads, capture phone numbers and increase convenience by encouraging listeners to send a text message for more information. In this day and age, it’s hard to imagine why any marketing or PR campaign would be developed without strong metrics.
  5. Everything is an “experience-creating opportunity.” PR, marketing, advertising and social media are the cornerstones of an integrated communication strategy, but don’t limit yourself to those disciplines. Any interaction with a stakeholder – internal or external – presents an opportunity to create a brand-building experience. How can you make the typical atypical?

The 5 Es are just a beginning to integrated marketing success. What else would you add? Got any success – or horror – stories to share? Let’s start a discussion in the comments.

With nearly 10 years of PR agency experience, Heather Whaling recently launched her own communication firm, Geben Communication. Fusing strategic thinking, strong writing skills and creativity, Heather delivers integrated PR, social media and marketing services to small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Connect with her on her blog, Twitter or via email at heather [at] gebencommunication.com.

Consumers Activate In The Form Of A Helper!

By Keith Privette in Guest Blogger find me tweeting out

Consumers have become content producing machines; I guess that is somewhat of an understatement! They blog, connect, chat, email, status update, tweet, write reviews, post pictures and videos, and comment on each other’s blogs (that should be a good start).  I have been noticing somewhat of a concerning path The Consumer is taking in this ever changing world of being connected to Businesses and the “gotcha mentality”.  The basic premise of the “gotcha mentality” is that people (consumers), bloggers, social media aficionados, and other businesses (I rarely see this one but it sure would add to the conversation) go in search of the missteps, failures, and chances companies take in this new world of connectedness and flame them any which way they can, for what?  In the very rare occasion it sparks a good discussion.  So Consumers time for skin in the game! Time to put your money where your blog is!

We the consumers have been rather vocal about wanting openness, transparency and honesty of the people we purchase and use goods and services from.  So businesses have listened to surveys, case studies, and market research and said “ok we can do this!”  So the venture into the world of social media and for the next six months every blogger, every reviewer, and social media aficionado produce mountains of content and noise about all the failure, missteps, and chances businesses take to be open, transparent, and honest.  Do you see the contradiction you have set up for businesses that are trying based on your behalf?  Now I am not saying businesses should not be held account and responsible for their actions, but there are proactive ways to really truly start building these communities you have asked for!

So, you’re following a business on twitter, have a RSS feed from a company’s blog, you a fan on a facebook page and following an industry tracking website.  With all these connectednesses there are ways you should be a proactive advocate to help build and grow these relationships!  We should implore the Honey tactics here!

The first thing you should do as a good advocate is DO YOUR RESEARCH! Not all things you read or see are what they seem at first glance.  Believe me I have caught myself leaping before doing this critical step.  This first step helps you understand perspective, both the companies and your own.

The second thing to do is reach out to the company in a very proactive and calm manner.  The channel you choose and how you approach this conversation is the best first step you can take for starting a dialogue to help the community you want to build.

The biggest advices I can offer is try and make it privately to give the dialogue a chance to happen.  If the company is on twitter use the direct message or DM.  Sometimes you may have to ask for a follow which is ok to ask for.  Locate the Contact Us on the company’s website and send them an explanation of your perspective.  If a fan on the company’s fan page on facebook you can send a message through your InBox.  All these are effective channels for communicating your perspective to a company you are choosing to help.  That is the key to this approach Help!  I am making the assumption as adults we know the best approach to the communication.

Now for the payoff, to make the full circle of engagement work to really grow and build these communities for success even in the midst of mistakes, missteps, and risk taking.  Work with the company about how to express the interactions to establish true openness, transparency and honesty.  If you have a blog write about your experiences with care, kindness, and constructive appraisals and encourage people to write comments to further the conversation.  Give a tweetout on twitter about the engagement you had with the company and direct to your blog.  Write a status update on the company’s fan page and include links to helpful information.  Lastly, if the company has a blog or something like it, encourage them to do a write up on the experience also.  Once they take this action use your community of followers and direct them to this write up.

Hopefully with these few tips we can all learn to interact to calmly discuss experiences and move away from the “gotcha” mentality.  These tips will really make this whole new world of the interconnectedness of businesses and consumers really become beneficial for all that are involved.  To be open, honest and transparent I have not always taken my own advice when it comes to these tips, but about a year ago I started thinking and acting in these exact ways and believe it or not, companies truly want our help in this way.  Businesses and people (yes one thing to remember there are always people behind the channels you are choosing to interact with, thanks John Bernier for that advice!) are very receptive when you approach the interaction and experience with care and calmness to make the products and services better for the greater good.  Now I know you may think this is fluff and feely, but I feel and think we all have a chance to “#chainreact” to really make a difference.

We need to start approaching these channels from a different perspective!

Maybe It Just Doesn’t Matter

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

During my internship this past summer, a terrible thing happened– I became a cookie snob. I learned to taste subtle differences in cookies that I never knew existed. I could distinguish between brands, levels of margarine and even suppliers of vanilla. I vowed to never again eat a competitor’s cookie because they used cheap ingredients and less chocolate chips. I figured that I should spread my cookie gospel and made it my goal for that summer to educate the masses. I assumed that if people could be convinced that backwards robes were a new product category, I could easily convert the world to be my friends, followers and brand ambassadors.

Months later, I was back at school and found myself up late studying for a final. I was hungry so I went to the cupboard and found some stale Chips Ahoy that my wife had bought months before. I shoved a few down and was satisfied. I wasn’t thinking of the times I stood in front of 15 plates of various cookies with crackers (to cleanse my pallet), water and spit cups. Why would I ever spit out cookies?! I wasn’t concerned with margarine levels or the % pure cacao of the chips. I realized at this moment that when it comes to cookies, for most people, it just doesn’t matter. A cookie is a cookie and cookies are good.

As marketers, we often fall into this trap. We become hyper sensitive to everything in a category, an industry, or even technology in general. We read blogs, industry rags, and hang out with like minded people. Then we sit back and wonder why consumers make the decisions they make. We can’t understand why we don’t have millions followers on twitter and 85% market share. Usually the answer is pretty simple– To consumers, it just doesn’t matter. No one follows you because you sell a packaged meat product, you don’t give away free pastrami, and name dropping your brand doesn’t impress anyone. You don’t have 85% market share because more than 15% of the market doesn’t even know what 3g is and picked their service provider because of the sparkly bedazzled cases they sold at the same mall kiosk.

If you have ever followed me on twitter you have undoubtedly heard me complaining about some variety of stupid product or service and how much of a moron you would have to be to buy the product involved. Rather than have an aneurysm while screaming at the TV, I have been trying to take a different, more consumer focused approach. I sit back and ask myself two questions:

  1. Who is this commercial talking to?
  2. What is the most efficient way to eliminate them from the face of the earth? Why does this matter to that consumer?

While sometimes frustrating, I think this struggle is part of the beauty of marketing. It is all about finding out what does matter to our consumers and delivering to them a value equation that makes sense. Sometimes this means we can dumb down and cut costs from our products yet still maintain high levels of customer satisfaction. Sometimes it means we have to just walk away from groups of consumers because we are not in the business of being everything to everyone. It forces us to purge inefficiency from our communications and demands that we’re realistic about our products and their potential.

And if all else fails, just kick up your feet, eat some cookies and take in one of the many life lessons Bill Murray has provided us with over the years.

Byline- Aaron Torchio is currently an MBA student at The University of Indiana, Kelley School of Business. As of May, you can find him in your local bread line. Chat with him on twitter: @torchio

Stepping Down From the Social Pedestal

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

“The reason social media is so difficult for most organizations

It’s a process, not an event.

Dating is a process. So is losing weight, being a public company and building a brand.

On the other hand, putting up a trade show booth is an event. So are going public and having surgery.

Events are easier to manage, pay for and get excited about. Processes build results for the long haul.” – Seth Godin, December 10, 2009

Respectfully, I have to disagree with Godin. In fact, I think it’s this thinking that’s caused organizations and businesses to fail in the online space. You see, social media isn’t an event; it’s not even a process. Both of these classifications give too much credit to the social space. Social media is simply an extension. It’s as simple as that – a mere extension of already existing business functions.

For the past year, the entire “social space” has been given too much credit and too much hype. I’m as guilty as the next person, as I fell victim to its noise as well. You spend enough time on Twitter and you’ll be inundated with ponzi-like “get rich quick” talk. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing social media. I think it’s highly effective tool and it’s something I spend a lot of time and effort trying to get businesses to understand. But if you spend any time online, you’ll think it’s the second coming of Christ.

Social media is not its own entity. It’s not new. Its not innovative. Like I mentioned above, it’s merely an extension. I’ve come to realization that people don’t work in social media. There’s no such thing as a social media specialist, or guru, or expert, or whatever title you want to attach. Depending on what your goal with social media is, the space is simply marketing, communications, sales, etc. Frank Eliason (@ComcastCares) doesn’t work in social media for Comcast, he works in customer service. There’s marketing folks, communication folks, folks in sales. But there is not a single “social media [fill in the blank]”. It doesn’t exist.

We’ve all heard, or personally had, the stories of uphill battles with c-level suites that put hurdles in front of social media implementation. A lot of those hurdles were results of “experts” or enthusiasts approaching the online space as a separate entity. So if you had difficulty getting management to begrudgingly accept your entrance into the social space, why do you continue to treat it like a separate entity?

We’re finally beginning to accept the fact that while social media is about building communities and conversations, it ultimately comes down to sales and profit (see Adam’s post on conversion). With this reality check, I think it’s time to let a little wind out of the social sail. As people continue to trend toward mobile and online applications, it’s a natural progression for various business departments to follow. But let’s stop placing social media on its own pedestal. It’s time to go back to the basics and foundation that got us here. It’s about integration.

So quit talking about social media like it’s a separate entity. Stop acting like social media is this new revolutionary and magical department within an organization.

Until we stop trying to prove ourselves and make a name for ourselves online, social campaigns will continue to fizzle. It’s not rocket science, folks. Take a step back, integrate it with your traditional business plans, and watch the $$$$ come in.

Kasey Skala, owner of the consulting firm Interactive Revolution, focuses on integrating new media and emerging technology with traditional communication strategies for small business and nonprofits. Prior to Interactive Revolution, Kasey spent four years in the financial industry in various marketing and communication roles. He currently maintains the blog, The Electric Waffle. Follow him on Twitter at @kmskala

Back It Up Or Secure It Or You Make The News

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

There are countless examples of companies losing customer data or getting information stolen. This is not the kind of press companies need or want. It puts thoughts in customer’s heads who may shop there that their information is not safe. They may stop shopping at that store and take their business elsewhere. There is so much that companies can do to protect customer’s data but they choose not to because of cost or they just think it can’t happen to them.

This can be the end of a company, web property, or any piece of data. Let’s face it: Data is money in today’s world. This happens to some companies and you hear about it in the news. There are a large number of companies that do not make the news when this happens. They can keep it quiet which is a scary thought. TJX, parent company of TJ Maxx, had their systems hacked and customer information was stolen. My wife loves TJ Maxx and I told her what happened. She was concerned that we would be hurt by it. I was worried myself. Think of other customers that think the same thing and maybe talk about it at the water cooler the next day after the news came out.

Other companies flat out lose things that are important. Citigroup had a box of backup tapes that were lost in transit. 3.9 Million Customers were and are at risk for possible identity theft. This happens all the time. Laptops are stolen out of cars. Businesses get broken into and get their computers stolen. Companies need to be careful when given the responsibility of taking care of customer’s information. Customers trust companies to provide services or goods. Don’t lose a customer’s trust by data loss or a security breach.

There are more recent examples of data loss that affected online communities. Ma.gnolia.com had a serious melt down and lost both the primary data and their backups. Ma.gnolia was a bookmarking site much like delicious.com. The site was essentially blown away and never to be running again. Did you notice where Ma.gnolia.com took you? People put trust into Ma.gnolia to store their bookmarks in the “cloud.” Ma.gnolia lost all credibility and a large number of users (if not all). Twitter went nuts over it. People started saying that “Storing data in the cloud is bad news…etc.”

A recent example of data loss or poor planning was at codinghorror.com. The following are two twitter statuses here and here. He managed to get some of his data back from cache. The ironic part is that this site has numerous articles on it about backing up data. They relied on the hosting companies backups. Never put faith in something that you can’t see. Ask questions about how things are backed up. Don’t lose their trust.

My main point by going through some of these examples (some old one) is that companies provide services and products in exchange for customer data and customer use. One screw up and you can lose all credibility with your competitors and in the particular market that you service. Word gets around fast on the Internet (thanks Twitter). Data loss can be a companies worst nightmare. You business can just disappear only to be be the talk of Twitter and be used as examples of how not to do business.

A few parting tips:

  • Makes sure your systems are backed up both on-site and off-site from your servers. Test these backups and restore them to make sure they are indeed good backups and that they are retrievable in case of a failure.*
  • Ensure that you are running the latest software that is available. Keep things updated. Hire an outside company to test your security systems. Don’t assume all is well.*
  • Tell the press and warn customers if you or your company does lose data. Some credibility will be spared if you “man up” and notify customers. Don’t sit on it or sweep it under the rug.*
  • Hire smart employees that can keep your systems safe and secure. Make sure things a tested often.*

* Don’t worry if you do not understand some of these items. Ask your employer what they are doing to keep your info safe and their customers. It may not be your responsibility as your job but you can take an active part in asking the right questions.

The interesting parallel on this is how are you backing up your personal life? Do you have gigabytes of family pictures on your computer at home? What if your house burns down? What if the computer is stolen while you are working out at the gym? Think about how much of your life resides as “Digital Data” today. You are your own business. Don’t make the news.

Written by Matt Brauchler, tech maven, new dad, lawn perfectionist and a System Administrator. Technology is his passion.

My Neighbor Thinks I Sell Billboards

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

At first it started as a joke, but then it became a regular occurrence…

My neighbor: “Sell any billboards today???”
Me: Chuckle. “You know I don’t sell billboards – I work in advertising.”

My neighbor: “Sell any billboards today???”
Me: Chuckle. Sigh. “You know I don’t sell billboards – I work in advertising. I’m on the account side. I develop brand strategy….”

My neighbor: “Sell any billboards today???”
Me: Chuckle. Sigh. Groan. “You know I don’t sell billboards – I work in advertising. I’m on the account side. I develop brand strategy and messaging and work with our designers to produce print, interactive and….”

My parents always said first impressions were everything – so what do you really want to communicate about your job (or yourself) in the first 15 seconds? Whether it’s your neighbor, your grandmother, your current or potential employer – what’s your elevator pitch?

In the agency world, we spend hours each week helping our clients understand, and convey the value of their brand. We strive to develop consistent and concise messaging. We are constantly pulling out one good nugget here, and searching for one great tidbit from there. But sometimes we forget about our personal brand – and how to express it consistently and concisely.

After experiencing what felt like the movie “Groundhog Day” with my neighbor, here are my takeaways –

  • Be concise – Cover a lot in a few words. But know your audience and be careful not to use industry jargon if it will only confuse them.
  • Be consistent – We tell our clients to stay on message, so why not follow our own advice?
  • Be intriguing – If you interest your audience, they’ll want to learn more, and maybe you will get to add another 15 seconds to your pitch.

I don’t sell billboards. I never have sold a billboard. But I have revisited my elevator pitch – “I build brands. And that doesn’t mean I sell billboards.”

Follow me @acraKA

The Real Value Of An Internship

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

Students spend a lot of time selecting a major and mastering classes and assignments. But, not all students recognize there is more to an education than school! Your education before a first job isn’t complete without at least one internship. Internships provide real value through experience, networking opportunities, teamwork, and exposure to potential jobs!

  1. Experience – An internship gives you first-hand experience to apply the theory learned in the classroom. You get to work on real projects, work side-by-side with knowledgeable and weathered professionals, and get in the “business-world” routine. Additionally, your experience gives you genuine content to discuss during job interviews; your résumé will be richer and more relevant for a potential employer.
  2. Networking – Internships introduce you to professionals at all levels in their careers. Co-workers have experience from other organizations and can advise you about the local industry. Moreover, most organizations participate in some type of professional affiliation. Ask if you can participate in a seminar or meeting.
  3. Teamwork – As an intern you will most likely have to collaborate with at least one other person at some time or another. Thus, adjusting to the nuances of teamwork is important at an early stage is your career. You can’t do everything yourself.
  4. Sneak Peak – So you’ve completed an internship and you loved it! Or, you hated it! Now what? Internships act as weathervanes, helping to point you in the right direction before your professional job search even begins. So, try one every semester to learn the most you can and be at the top of every employer’s list!

Jessica Frey
Associate Interactive Account Executive, MARC USA, Pittsburgh
St. Vincent College, Bachelor of Arts in Communications
Undergraduate internships with WordWrite Communications and the Pittsburgh Pirates
My LinkedIn profile is my “website.”

Four Reasons Why People Hate Foursquare, And Why They’re Wrong

I’m out on blogger vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

By Jen Beio, media planner and champion of the pursuit of internet awesomeness

I love the internet. I really do. Truly, madly, deeply.

I love it for its quiet brilliance. I mean, after LOLcats, of course.

As a self-proclaimed digital kid, I am perhaps more inclined than the average bear to jump on internet bandwagons, due partly to my age, and partly to the fact that I’m such a savvy so-and-so (I kid). As such, I often find myself defending web ideas to my suspicious circle of colleagues and friends, and am always a bit surprised to have to do so. The things I find so incredible in their simplicity tend to strike my skeptical cohorts as stalker-esque, creepy fads. Can all my Foursquare haters please stand up?

For anyone who’s unaware, Foursquare is a location-based social networking community that allows users to state their coordinates and offer helpful tips to friends and other users who might also frequent that venue. Check off items on your to-do list, earn points, win badges, and become mayor of your favorite spots by checking in there more than any other patron. Fun, right?

Last night, I found myself arguing on Foursquare’s behalf on two separate occasions. I know. I need to get a life. Anyway, both scenarios involved individuals in the advertising community, and both conversations, despite my fervent outpouring of Foursquare love, resulted only in blank stares and/or furrowed brows. What. Is up. With that.

Let’s all stop hating for a moment and contemplate what it is about Foursquare that launches it to the top of my list of quietly brilliant web innovations.

Here are the top reasons to hate on Foursquare that I’ve heard from the hater community. And, of course, the reasons I beg to differ.

1. It’s creepy.

Yes, there’s an element of weirdness to having a location feed available on the web for the masses, especially as a single female in a big city. I’m not stupid; I get that. Perhaps I will get kidnapped on the way home from my current location, and you can all have a good laugh about it (jerks). You know what? Life is creepy sometimes. And dangerous, always. This is one of those cases where I feel like the benefits outweigh the risks, so long as you’re smart about the information you share. Keep reading for more on that.

2. It’s annoying.

It’s not annoying, it’s information. Foursquare is a gold mine for consumer data. I really can’t believe that I would need to argue this to people in the industry. All pings, badges and tomfoolery aside, what Foursquare does, essentially, is give businesses a free list (a list! for free!) of digital-savvy consumers who love you enough to want to broadcast to their web community that they are a patron. These are people who carry a certain amount of digital clout that want to spread the word about you, and they are going to do it for free. And, you now have access to a list of them, what they think are the best parts about your business, and even some information about them (their Twitter handles, phone numbers, and so on). It’s a CRM-lover’s dream. How are you not excited about this?

3. Who cares?

You care! Especially all those ‘yous’ out there who are in the biz. Or, the business-owning ‘yous.’ Our job as marketers is to care. You care (a) what people do with their time (b) what they choose to tell their people they’re doing with their time and (c) when you can put your brand in front of them at the right moment in time. Not to pontificate, but if the internet is spitting out free applications that help us to gather the data that provides a foundation for our profession, it is your responsibility to care.

[A caveat: this is not to say that no-one cares. I have seen a few cool case studies of businesses who have jumped on the Foursquare train, and are riding it to Consumer-Love Station. This post about the Pit BBQ in Raleigh, for example, truly warms my heart. Kudos to you, Pit BBQ management. Consumer interaction: you’re doing it right.]

4. Why would I want to do that?

Well, this one is really up to you. I like it because it’s a game, it’s fun to do, and it gives me a tool to coordinate nights out with friends. I also like the idea of creating a database of my existence, which is why you can find me tucking seemingly trivial information into many different data-ports around the web. It seems to matter to me. Personal preference of the digital kid, I imagine. But, fun for everyone who chooses to participate, I find.

Like I said, my romantic feelings for the internet lie mainly in its outpouring of tools that unabashedly display simple, beautiful, quiet brilliance. If nothing else, I love that I’ve been able to use applications like Foursquare to build out a community of web-adoring geeks such as myself. I simply cannot wait to see what awesomeness lies ahead for those businesses that have us geeks heading up their marketing initiatives.

For all those out there who choose to remain creeped out, annoyed, apathetic and non-participating, I apologize for wasting a moment of your time.

Thanks go to my editor, Clay, for helping to un-muddle my thoughts on this one. Virtual high-five. Thanks also to Adam, for asking me to guest-post. I’m flattered, and honored.